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USA travel

PostPosted: July 30th, 2017, 7:23 pm
by sabconsulting
Terms and general info

"Campgrounds" - what we call campsites in Britain.
"Campsite" - what you might call a 'pitch' in Britain - the space for your camper in the campground.
"Boondocking" - wild camping - camping not at an official campground, generally free of charge. Many use this to mean camping in wild places, but others use the term for camping in Walmart carparks and anything in between.
"Campground host" - a person who stays in the campground and looks after it - they will be camped in their own RV on-site.
"RV" (Recreational Vehicle) - camper.
"Touring Trailer" - Caravan
"5th Wheeler" or "5er" - 5th wheel caravan towed via a 5th wheel tow hitch fitted to the bed of a pickup truck.
"Truck camper" - Demountable camper
"Absorption fridge" - the 3-way / propane fridge that is common on US RVs. Note that these need to be kept level when parked / camping or they will stop working and may not start working again during your trip.
"Bear spray" - not necessarily for camping, but useful for hiking in bear country. It is a pepper spray and can be purchased for around $44 from national park visitors centres and general stores.

Camping in US State Parks

If you are travelling through the US and looking for campgrounds it could be tempting to use only private campgrounds. You may be adventurous and experiment with boondocking. But in between the two are State Parks.

State Parks are easily identified on the Rand McNally road atlas. They often use the acronym "SP" and the name of the park and often have an associated campground, identified by a small green tent symbol on the map. Also look out for "SRA" or State Recreation Areas which may also have the tent symbol.

Each state park campground will generally have marked sites, often level and usually identified by a post and a number on it. It will also usually have a long-drop toilet, or maybe even a flushing toilet and wash basin and in some places a shower. There will often be a source of drinking water, and at some campgrounds a place to dump your black and grey tanks. Your site will often its own picnic table and fire pit or metal barbecue.

Prices vary from around $10 per night (for vehicle and 2 occupants) at fairly primitive campgrounds away from major tourist areas, to around $25 at well equipped campgrounds or those near major tourist attractions.

In my experience these campgrounds are very nice and well maintained, often in lovely locations, with sites that are well spaced.

It is possible to book some sites in advance, but for most foreign visitors that isn't practical. All the state park campgrounds I have visited have had sites available for campers turning up without re-booking.

In some cases you may arrive while a ranger or campground host is on site - in that case you can talk to them about availability and what to do.

More often than not you will arrive at a time when no-one is on duty. What do you do then? This is the important bit, because without this you may be overwhelmed by the quantity of instructions or the sheer unfamiliarity of the process and turn around to seek a private campground:

The majority of state park campgrounds operate a system whereby you can drive around the campground looking for an unoccupied site, and the pull into the desired site. How do you know the site is occupied or not (i.e. what if it has been taken but the occupier has left in his RV for the day and not left telltale furniture lying around)? In most cases the fact a site is taken can be seen from the numbered post next to the site. It will usually have a bulldog clip on it. A piece of paper inserted into this clip will indicate the site has been taken, or is at least reserved in advance. If the bulldog clip is empty you are free to use that site (though check the notice board at the campground entrance for any rules - they may reserve certain 'loops' in the campground for specific types or sizes of campers).

A couple of campgrounds I've used in Washington State have a different process - rather than have a bulldog clip with a slip of paper indicating a site is taken, the ranger had printed out little lists of which sites were taken or reserved and pinned them to the notice board at the entrance station, so you could take one with you as you drove around the campground looking for a site.

Once you have occupied your camp site you are allowed around 30 minutes in order to register and pay. Make sure you are happy with the site and you can get your camper level if you have an absorption fridge. Then take a note of the site number (usually on the post with the bulldog clip by your site) and your vehicle license plate number and walk back to the entrance station / notice board.

Make a note of any regulations: there may be regulations about fires, quiet times and warnings about wildlife, plus details of how long you can stay (often for many days).

At the entrance station you should find 4 things: 1) A pencil or pen, often on a piece of string; 2) a stack of envelopes, either in a pouch on the notice board, or under a metal flap on the top of the following post; 3) a slot, usually in a metal post, for you to post your completed envelope; 4) a notice board with rates, rules, information etc.

Use the pen to fill in the information on the envelope, usually this will be your name, address, license plate, possibly vehicle type, the site number you have chosen, the date of arrival (Remember US dates are written in the format MM/DD/YYYY), your intended date of departure and the number of days you are staying, together with the total cost which you can work out from the information on the notice board. You then insert your payment into the envelope and seal it. Usually that payment will be cash, but at one campground I found they would take credit cards so I could fill in a credit card slip and insert that instead.

The flap of the envelope has a tear-off portion. Tear that off and fill in any necessary information. This is the copy for your camp site.

Post the envelope (minus the tear-off portion) into the slot provided (usually into a stout metal post provided).

Return to your vehicle and attach the tear-off portion to the bulldog clip of your campsite (if there is no bulldog clip you can place it in the vehicle windshield). The ranger or campground host will check this later against the payments envelopes to ensure you paid correctly.

Enjoy your camping.


Re: USA travel

PostPosted: July 30th, 2017, 7:34 pm
by zildjian
Thank you Steve thats clear enough I think I could follow that OK, very much like to see some pictures of your trip sometime and I expect you will anyway

Re: USA travel

PostPosted: July 30th, 2017, 8:43 pm
by Alexd
Interesting read that :D

did you rent a truck camper for your holiday and if so where and how much roughly is the charge?

Re: USA travel

PostPosted: July 31st, 2017, 12:51 pm
by sabconsulting
Hi Alex,

The trip we did in June 2017 was helping a friend by moving his camper from Tennessee to Washngton State. At other times I have rented a class B or class C camper. In the past it was difficult to rent a truck camper (except for Canada). A few small companies did them. Now Cruise America are renting them, but they don't come with 4x4 or the jacks (for demounting) or a generator (which equivalent sized RVs from them come with). They are also only available from a limited number of rental stations.

Given these limitations, and the higher cost of renting a truck camper (the same price as their largest 30ft motorhome), I would still consider renting a small class C (they do a 19ft model which is only 7ft wide rather than the more usual 8ft and ideal for 2 people). Or possibly a van-based class C which should soon start appearing on European-designed van chassis (Transit / Fiat / Mercedes) replacing the old Ford E-series vans which were heavy, slow and thirsty in standard 5.4 litre petrol rental form.

I will create a trip report for the US trip and post a link here when I get a chance.


Re: USA travel

PostPosted: August 13th, 2017, 9:12 pm
by sabconsulting
Here is the trip report for our 2017 cross-country trip in a GMC 3500 and Lance truck camper:



Re: USA travel

PostPosted: January 21st, 2018, 11:19 pm
by sabconsulting
Also, here is a video of our cross-USA truck camper trip: